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Working in property planning and development

Planning and development: graduate property specialism

Planning and development is a complex area of work that involves advising clients on how to maximise the value of their properties and how to work with the planning process.
Planning consultants act as intermediaries between the planning system and developers.

Working in planning is all about gaining, or granting, planning permission. Graduates can work as planning officer for local authorities. More usually, however, they work for a property firm or consultancy as a planning consultant.

James Kinnersly, an assistant planning consultant at Gerald Eve, explains the work of a consultant: ‘Essentially we act as intermediaries between the planning system and those who wish to undertake development. We advise on the best possible strategy for obtaining planning permission, and then help our clients take projects from inception, through the planning system, ultimately obtaining planning permission. There are economic, environmental, social, heritage, design and viability issues with every development. Our role is to essentially balance these issues for clients in a way which is most compliant with planning policy, and agreeable to planning officers, councillors and other stakeholders.’

As is clear, planning is closely tied up with property development and some firms – like Gerald Eve – actually sit their planners and developers within the same department. Some graduates even get qualified as both a chartered town planner and surveyor.

What can graduates expect from a job in planning and development?

A typical working day for a graduate could include attending client meetings with senior colleagues, doing research on a property at a local planning authority, carrying out site visits, analysing national planning policy and drafting reports. Planners need to make planning decisions, conduct research into plans and make sure those stakeholders and clients are happy. Jo Davis, national head of planning, development and regeneration at GVA, advises: ‘Property professionals need to be able to have difficult conversations and to read people’s reactions. Planning especially is all about change and communities can be nervous about this, so the ability to build relationships, with objectors as well as clients, is crucial.’ Jo continues: ‘One of the challenges of working in the public sector is planning decisions are subject to whether there is sufficient political will driving the development.’

If you take a planning role, you might gain professional accreditation with the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) instead of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Essential skills for graduates planning careers in property planning and development

  • A willingess to get out of the office
  • A genuine interest in understanding planning policy
  • Time management to juggle simultaneous projects
  • Diplomacy and patience when working with clients
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